If the Oakland Athletics are to sweep a series in Detroit for the first time in 11 years, they must prevent the Tigers' Max Scherzer from becoming the majors' first 20-game winner.
Accomplishing that feat would appear secondary for Scherzer, who looks to keep the visiting A's from completing the four-game sweep Thursday.
Oakland (75-57) totaled 19 runs while losing four of five prior to outscoring Detroit 28-13 the last three games. Brandon Moss homered twice and had a career-high six RBIs in Wednesday's 14-4 rout of the AL Central-leading Tigers (77-56), who were coming off a sweep of the New York Mets.
"When you're hot, you're feeling good," Detroit's Torii Hunter said of the A's. "When a team is hot, that's what it looks like."
One-half game behind Tampa Bay for the overall wild-card lead, Oakland last swept a series at Detroit from Aug. 23-25, 2002 -- one year after its last four-game road sweep of the Tigers.
Detroit was last swept in a four-game home set when Minnesota did it Sept. 10-13, 2004.
For Oakland to do it, it will need to go through Scherzer (19-1, 2.73 ERA), who is 6-0 with a 1.48 ERA in seven starts since the All-Star break and looking to become the second Tiger in three seasons to win 20 games after Justin Verlander won 24 in 2011.
He gave up three hits and struck out 11 in six innings of a 3-0 victory over the Mets on Saturday to join to Rube Marquard (1912) and Roger Clemens (2001) as the only pitchers to win 19 of their first 20 decisions.
Clemens started 20-1 for the Yankees that year before finishing 0-2.
"For me, every time I go out, I seem to pitch well," Scherzer told the Tigers' official website. "Everybody through the lineup plays well every time I take the mound, and that's the reason I'm 19-1 -- not because I'm pitching well."
Scherzer, the beneficiary of a major league-best 7.32 run-support average, is 2-1 with a 2.67 ERA in six regular season and playoff starts against the A's while striking out 54 in 30 1/3 innings. He gave up two runs and fanned 11 in six innings of a 4-3, 12-inning loss at Oakland on April 12.
Moss is 2 for 11 with four strikeouts against the right-hander, but has three homers in two games and is 6 for 10 with eight RBIs in the series.
The A's hand the ball to Bartolo Colon (14-5, 2.97), who makes his first start since going on the disabled list with a groin strain Aug. 18. The 40-year-old right-hander hopes the layoff gave him time to regroup after he allowed 10 runs and 14 hits in 6 2/3 innings to lose his previous two starts.
Manager Bob Melvin doesn't plan to keep Colon on a pitch limit in his first appearance since Aug. 13.
"We'll see, play it by ear with him," Melvin told the Athletics' official website. "He was a little worn down before the groin became an issue. He wasn't pitching his best, so we'll monitor him and see what he has to offer early on. Usually he tells you early in the game what kind of stuff he has."
Though Colon is 0-7 with a 7.19 ERA in his last 12 starts against the Tigers, he gave up only a three-run homer to Prince Fielder over seven innings opposite Scherzer in April.
Miguel Cabrera is 6 for 13 with two doubles against Colon, but 2 for 9 in the series.
Hunter is 6 for 12 with a home run in the last three games, but 2 for his last 14 against Colon.